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This article was originally published in issue #28
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During the 1980s while the guitar scene was flooded with clones of Van Halen or Yngwie Malmsteen, one player stood out with his unorthodox approaches and technique. In this tech session Jamie Humphries guides you through the playing style of the great George Lynch!
George Lynch is with out a doubt one of the most original and inventive hard Rock guitarists to emerge from the 1980’s scene. He is renowned for his fluid free flowing legato flurries, his fast tremolo picking, sliding vibrato, wide intervals, and use of exotic scales.
George Lynch began playing the guitar at the tender age of 10 years old. A naturally gifted guitarist, he began playing with bands in his teens in his native city of Spokane WA. By the late 1970s George had relocated to Los Angeles, playing the club circuit at the same time as Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen. Lynch auditioned for the gig with Ozzy Osbourne, and although Randy Rhoads was picked, George ended up filling Randy’s teaching spot at Randy’s mother’s music school.
By the early '80s George had joined the band Dokken, who earned a huge amount of commercial success, both with album sales and sell-out arena tours. His unique chops were earning him a reputation as one of the big guns in Rock guitar; alongside the likes of Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen. This was further cemented by the release of Lynch’s signature instrumental “Mr Scary”, earning him the same name. The track featured George’s signature phrasing, screaming harmonics and wide stretching licks. This track is still one of George’s best loved tunes to date.
By the '90s George had left Dokken, forming his own band Lynch Mob, with their debut album “Wicked Sensation” boasting some of his best writing and playing to date. Lynch also released his first solo album “Sacred Groove” in 1993, earning him the reputation as a diverse, well seasoned guitar hero.
Lynch as continued to record and perform on and off with both Lynch Mob and also Dokken, as well as collaborating with ex-Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson on the Lynch/Pilson Project. George has a number of other projects that he is, and has been, actively involved with, including T&N, and most recently KXM with Korn drummer Ray Luzier and Kings X singer/bassist Dug Pinnick.
Gear wise, George Lynch has had a long standing relationship with ESP guitars, Seymour Duncan pickups, and Randall amplification, all of whom produce signature George Lynch equipment. Uniquely, he also now runs his own Mr Scary Guitar company, where he will actually build a guitar for you!
For this issues Tech Session I have chosen to demonstrate two riff sections, followed by a solo performed over the first section. I've tried to include as many signature Lynch licks as possible, to give you an insight into this unique guitarist’s style.
Our first riff is based on the Mr Scary riff and features a driving sixteenth note rhythm on the 2nd fret of the 6th string. The riff also pedals off of the 3rd and 4th frets of the A string, giving a strong F# Aeolian tonality by high lighting the minor 6th. This fist riff also includes a descending picking run that uses both F# Phrygian and F# Aeolian.
Our second riff sticks with the sixteenth note driving rhythm, but modulates to C# minor. This riff borrows ideas from the track “Wicked Sensation” and features two note figures on the 5th and 4th strings. I’ve included the b5 interval in this riff as this is used a lot by George in his rhythm playing. This riff also includes a short lick performed on the 6th and 5th strings based around the C# Blues scale. With both of the riffs make sure you keep your picking hand nice and relaxed to enable you to keep the constant sixteenth note rhythm. Also make sure that you use alternate picking through out, even when pedalling between two strings.
Now it's time for the solo and we kick off with a Blues based lick using the F# minor pentatonic scale. The bends on this opening lick are slow and gradual, and you should also pay attention to achieving pinched harmonics and a wide aggressive vibrato. Our next lick uses the F# Blues scale that resolves with an unusual approach to vibrato, which is similar to a bass player's technique. To achieve the vibrato you will slide back and forth between the 2nd and 4th frets on the 3rd string. Make sure you don’t grip the neck too tight as you won’t be able to slide between the two positions.
Our next lick is an ascending minor 3rd shape that shifts in octaves across all strings, starting from the 4th fret of the 6th string. Our next figure is based loosely on a shape that George uses in a lick called the “Gothic Octave”. This figure features fast left hand slurs and picking, and is based around the F# Harmonic minor scale, with an added flattened 5th. This section of the solo concludes with more blues based phrasing.
The second half of the solo enters with some interesting two note per string figures based around F# Aeolian on the top two strings, before ascending up the top string using fast slides and hammer-ons, before concluding with a bluesy bend. We then have some more Blues based figures with George’s unique approach to phrasing. We then have an ascending diminished 7th arpeggio that is performed using string skipping, and shifts up the neck in minor 3rds on the 1st and 3rd strings. We conclude our solo with another diminished figure that uses strings skipping and a three note per strings fingering on the 1st and 3rd strings, covering minor 3rd stretches. This lick also includes some tapping which is performed another minor 3rd higher. This entire final sequence is based around stacked minor 3rd intervals, and is a very effective way of playing fast diminished licks.
Not only does George Lynch have amazing chops, but he also has a killer tone, produced predominantly by his signature ESP guitars, one of which I've reviewed elsewhere in this very issue! Over the years he has used a variety of Soldano, and old Marshall Plexi heads, with a rack system but now uses Randall amps, with Randall producing the signature Lynch Box amp. If you are really determined to nail that sound, Randall even has a 15 Watt practice combo as an alternative to his fire-breathing three channel 100 Watt head! For the session in my studio the rhythm guitar tracks were recorded with a Musicman Axis guitar plugged into a Cornford MK50 head. For the film session in GI's studio, I used a signature ESP George Lynch Kamikaze guitar into a Blackstar HT5 valve head. Some delay was added in the mixing stage. George uses a pretty high gain tone, with the highs slightly boosted to help with achieving feedback and harmonics. I would suggest adding a healthy dose of digital delay, by running your delay unit in the effects loop of your amp.